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Two nurses from Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s Aintree University Hospital, Gemma Fearon and Sarah Phelan, have been photographed as part of a collection of portraits by world-renowned photographer, Rankin, created in aid of NHS Gift for Heroes; an initiative founded by celebrity hairdresser, Adee Phelan.
With all portraits photographed on the same day that the very first COVID-19 vaccination was administered, the series of images focuses on the unique stories of seven key workers from around the country, including Gemma and Sarah, who were nominated by colleagues as deserving of a makeover due to their work throughout the pandemic.
Both nurses were whisked down to London for the day, chauffer driven to the studio and were then transformed with hair and make-up courtesy of Adee and his team. At the end of the day, they both travelled home with luxury gift boxes as a thank you.
Gemma Fearon, a registered nursing associate who has been redeployed during the pandemic, said: “I love my profession, I love making a difference. Making a difference is not always the big things, this could mean something as little as giving time to sit and have a conversation with someone when they are feeling low or unwell. This has been a particular need to patients during the pandemic due to not being able to have visitors.
“I was redeployed to the ventilation unit to help care for patients who were very ill with coronavirus. To enable me to work on the front line I had to move out of my home to protect the vulnerable family members I lived with, so I moved into a hotel.
“We didn’t know a lot about the virus at the beginning and wearing full PPE was scary for us as staff. We would write our names and job roles on our gowns, so staff and patients knew who we were as we all looked the same.
“The hair and makeup, the photo shoot, the gifts – every part of it was amazing and I didn’t expect any of it. I felt privileged to have been chosen. It was a brilliant day, from start to finish.”
Sarah Phelan, a breast cancer specialist nurse at Aintree University Hospital, said: “Never at any other time in my career have I feared going into work not knowing what I was going to face or if I was putting my family at risk back home.
“We have a job to do and we are professionals, however we are also human beings. This year has been very tough to say the least. There were times that I shed tears for my patients and their families but also just down to the fear of what the world was going through.
“On the day of the photoshoot I felt like a celebrity! We arrived in style and our hair and makeup were amazing and the photoshoot was brilliant. I loved the day, it was really nice to be pampered. Everyone was lovely and I’m very grateful they gave their time to make the day so special.”
Following Adee’s launch of his gift box initiative in 2020, he has since secured over £1.7 million in product donations and raised enough funds through a JustGiving page to both personally create and deliver over 23,556 gift boxes. Each box includes a range of hair and beauty products and is designed as both a token of gratitude, and as a reminder that the care being shown by the NHS for their communities is reciprocated.
When asked about the initiative, Adee commented: “Every time people get these boxes, these frontline warriors, the smiles on their faces are just unbelievable. We’ve hand delivered thousands of boxes to hospitals over the country and I want to keep it going. Things are still desperate, and they still need our help, so I’ve set up a new JustGiving page to raise funds for packaging and delivery and if you can help by donating, please do so”.
This special exhibition follows Maddox Gallery’s 2020 fundraiser with Art for Heroes, which raised almost £2 million in support of the NHS.
“We are incredibly proud to be a part of this initiative and to support NHS Gift for Heroes. Adee’s commitment and dedication to his fundraising efforts have been phenomenal, and we’re delighted to be able to play a part in helping him give the NHS the recognition that they deserve. By hosting this special series, we hope to both amplify the message behind what is already a nationally revered initiative and encourage everyone to donate to this incredible cause. Whether big or small, all donations have made such a huge difference and for that, we can only thank you.”
The portraits will feature in the windows of the Westbourne Grove gallery from Saturday 20th March to Monday 5th April 2021, with the series complemented by a floral NHS rainbow themed façade. The exhibition will be available for all to view from the street and pays tribute to the healthcare workers battling the virus from the frontline.
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